Tag Archives: massage

If I knew then… Tips for becoming a good massage therapist

Well, it has been quite a long time since I’ve written here on my little Dietitian-in-Training- slash- whatever I feel like writing about- blog project, but not due to lack of material. Since I last posted, I finished the spring semester of my junior year in nutrition studies, married the love of my life, enjoyed a fabulous honeymoon in lovely Puerto Rico (stay here, you won’t regret it!), said goodbye my dear grandfather, and started an exciting new job as a Diet Tech at Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville, Florida. Oh, and I’m taking summer classes and still working at the restaurant AND still keeping up with a select few of my massage clients. Whew! No wonder I haven’t had the time¬†made the time to blog about it all! Every time I feel inspired to write about something really cool, I think, “I really SHOULD write that paper.” Or, “I really HAVE to take a nap, or else I might collapse.” Not that anything is different today. I still have a pile of homework and laundry and need to exercise and call my mother and so on. But I was inspired this morning by a young aspiring massage therapist and decided to share with all of you lovely people.


“Raquel” is a talented young lady about halfway through her massage therapist training at a local massage school. This particular school is able to keep massage tuition low by charging a small fee for student massages, (although, of course, the students aren’t paid, because that would be illegal.) This generates revenue for the school, gives practice to the students, and allows young broke newlyweds like me the opportunity to get a little TLC. I used to disagree with the school making money off the students’ hard work, but once I saw that these students pay less than half what I paid for massage school, I realized it is a genius plan. Aaaand, the massage was actually pretty good! It reminded me of when I was first starting out as a LMT.

I had landed a job at one of the nicest spas in the area and I was soooo green. And one coworker in particular let me know she didn’t think I deserved to be there. Rather than taking me under her wing and trying to make me a better therapist (which would have ultimately served the team and the spa better in the end), she mocked me, spoke bad about me, and tattled on me every chance she got whether I did or didn’t actually make the mistake in question. Needless to say, it was tough. Incidentally, she also predicted that my relationship with my then-boyfriend would never work out because of some inherent relational deficit she felt I had. (See above, where I just married said boyfriend-turned-love-of-my-life-hubby.) And, as you might guess, I grew into my own as a massage therapist as well.

But, back to Raquel. I remembered what it felt like to be new at something and unsure of myself, and so I offered her the following tips after my lovely massage.

1. People cool off, temperature-wise, as the massage goes on, so keep them covered as much as possible (unless they are pregnant, those ladies are always trying to get cooler!) Obviously, check in with the client and read the cues that might say otherwise (sweating, clammy, fidgety, etc). But most people like to feel snug as a bug and not “hanging all out there” with all the limbs exposed at once.

2. Don’t be afraid to move and stretch the arms and legs and neck a bit. Just be careful for indication of injuries and so forth.

3. What you tell them you are GOING to do and what you JUST DID are sometimes just as important as what you actually DO on the table. For example, “It sounds like you could use some extra pressure around your right shoulder and that I should avoid your feet, is that right?” Or, “I found your shoulders were elevated, so I worked to create some space there, and it worked beautifully. You should feel a lot better now.” It reinforces what they are feeling in their body and assures them you know what you are talking about and that you have a plan. The most common question I get as a LMT from clients is, “Do you feel that big knot back there?” Yes I feel it and yes I am going to fix it for you. Now you can relax.

4. Use a real cloth face cradle cover. No one likes to life their head up after a massage and still have a paper towel stuck to their face. No bueno.

5. Don’t have the music too loud or the light too bright. It took me a long time to realize that the music can be so distracting, no matter how soothing you think it is. One of my favorite clients would always have ask me to turn it down all the time before I finally got the drift. It takes me a while sometimes, I guess.

6. And, not from today, but reminiscing on a particularly bad massage experience from a while ago, gospel sermons are never, never, never appropriate as pre-massage “music”. Do not project your beliefs onto your clients. On that note, always stay neutral; don’t discuss religion, politics, or sex. It never works out well.

7. And last of all, steer clear of haters. I kind of despise the word haters as it’s thrown around all willy-nilly, but when you are starting out at something new, it’s natural to feel a little intimidated and some people will try to take advantage of that. Be confident. Learn everything you can, so you can become better. And one day, you will have more clients than you know what to do with!¬†

Well, that’s it. I’m sure there is lots more I could have said to young Raquel, but I was feeling too good to go into it anymore. Plus, I still have to write that paper.

Please feel free to comment below: what’s YOUR biggest pet peeve when getting a massage?